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Could Noem Family Addiction and Loss Underpin Hemp Opposition?

Another eager reader stopped me on the way into the Green Aberdeen Chautauqua Saturday and asked me why Governor Kristi Noem is so heck-bent on keeping industrial hemp out of South Dakota. The best logical explanation I’ve been able to come up with is that she’s stalling to maximize First Hubby Bryon’s opportunity to sell federally subsidized crop insurance to the first hemp farmers… or maybe just to keep corn and soybean farmers from rushing to a different cash crop that her husband isn’t ready to insure.

That logic breaks down, because Noem is still vociferously opposing the now insurable crop, to an almost irrational extreme, out of proportion with what we hear from any other state, in a way that only hurts her brand and may actually deter hemp-pioneers from doing business with Noem Insurance, Inc., even if Kristi would let Bryon offer hemp policies.

A few more crop insurance commissions don’t seem enough to explain Governor Noem’s deliberate ignoring of fact, economic opportunity, and personal political risk. Her opposition to harmless industrial hemp feels more like a line drawn for personal reasons, a grudge arising from personal injury or loss, now so woven into a worldview that it is impervious to reconsideration, reasoned discussion, or negotiation.

Because amateur psychology is no shakier than any other approach to deciphering Noem’s hempophobia, let’s study this comment made by Governor Noem last May at a drug court graduation in Pierre:

Officials with the Sixth Circuit DUI/Drug Court celebrated the 70th person to graduate from the program Wednesday. The keynote speaker for the event was Governor Kristi Noem, who as attending her first drug court graduation…

“But another reason that today is pretty special for me is that I have a family that has been personally touched by addiction as well. My mother’s side of the family is filled with alcoholics. I also grew up with a foster brother who suffered quite a bit of trauma as a child and dealt with addiction his whole life and still until the day he died; which was the result of addiction, greatly impacted our family. We watched his struggles. We worked hard to get him help and treatment and when I served here in the Legislature was when we first started debating and talking about drug courts and different types of courts that would approach treatment differently than what was previously available” [Zach Nelson, “6th Circuit DUI/Drug Court Graduates 70th Participant,” KCCR, 2019.05.08].

Addiction runs in Noem’s family. Noem lost a family member to addiction. That could be all the “reason” she needs to slam the door on any legislation with even the faintest whiff of an addictive drug. Never mind that research suggests that hemp isn’t a drug at all, that we can tell the difference between hemp and smoking-marijuana, and that some research indicates marijuana is less addictive than alcohol, the sale and transportation of which Governor Noem has signed bills to expand. People who lose loved ones don’t always come to the table looking for reason and compromise. If the people who suffered a loss can pin the face of the cause of that loss on your issue, they’ll plug their ears, dig in their heels, and whale on you the way they wish they could whale on whatever or whoever actually took their loved ones away.

And if that’s the case, there’s no convincing Kristi Noem that industrial hemp is good for South Dakota. There’s just overriding her veto.


  1. John 2019-09-25

    Cory, it’s likely that you nailed it. In addition to the ag-lobbying, folks should bombard the gov with the decades-long lessons learned from Portugal and other nations. Decriminalizing use / possession of small quantities drastically reduces addiction and drug-related crime. Portugal and other nations treat addiction like the mental health issue it is – to get to the individualized causes leading to escapism – rather than as a crime.

  2. chris 2019-09-25

    Maybe she’s just afraid of fiber and small farmers avoiding bankruptcy.

  3. Brian 2019-09-25

    This appears to be in line with all things that Noem has an opinion on in so much as it resembles the actions of a zealot. Her religious fervor has pushed her to both advocate and disparage certain things even when science or the citizens of SD have strongly run counter to her views. The same can be said of her illogical reasoning for being anti hemp. Her reasoning doesn’t stand up to fact based inquiry and still, with the passion of a zealot, she opposes.
    I will say that I am not so certain it will lead to her demise. SD has a long history of cutting their noses off to spite their face when it comes to fact based reasoning or progressing out of the prior century.

  4. Robin Friday 2019-09-25

    There’s no accounting for the quirks we as individuals (public servant or not) hide within our psyches. There’s also no justification for our various stubborn streaks. But you could be right. And usually nothing good or useful about them either.

  5. Mark S Smith 2019-09-25

    Been told by someone who came from the same area that he had smoked pot with her.
    Said she was a pothead when younger and liked it.

    Heresay I know. I didn’t ask it was offered
    and I have nothing either way. She did speed a
    lot I’ve heard? That’s kinda counter to
    the weed use but I can’t say.

    Speculation but I was there and he said it to me directly.

    Bad memories of personal use?

  6. Robin Friday 2019-09-25

    I don’t know about her habits except for the speeding and flouting the law. I do remember that before she was elected to congress, she had numerous speeding tickets lying around, plus numerous summonses to court on same, plus two warrants for her arrest for ignoring them.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-09-25

    Mark, when your friend comes here himself and makes his statement on the record, under his own name, I’ll consider lending the claim some credence.

  8. Certain Inflatable Recreational Devices 2019-09-25

    Everything I have heard from Noem leads me to believe she has very little knowledge of anything on which she weighs in. It seems to be a cred factor which lends itself to a position of power in SoDak.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-09-25

    But in this case, CIRD, her willful ignorance goes against even the modest curiosity and openness of her own party. I can understand Republicans as a group playing dumb when they need to hold the line against sensible Democratic proposals; I can’t explain her playing super-dumb when her fellow dum-dums are nearly all saying, “Hey, hemp isn’t so bad.” That’s why I’m willing to entertain explanations that go beyond partisan motivation or personal profit.

  10. Porter Lansing 2019-09-25

    Consider this analysis of Kristi Noem. She filters every decision through two questions. Will this decision possibly affect my image or affect my ability to get re-elected negatively? Even the slightest risk of harm, no matter how much opportunity there is to help anyone else, brings an immediate negative response. It may sound selfish but that’s just because it is.

  11. Debbo 2019-09-25

    My great grandmother was an alcoholic. My grandmother wanted nothing to do with booze. My parents didn’t drink much, but when Grama came to visit mom made sure to hide any liquor from sight.

    On the other hand, smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes was just fine. Even after the news came out about the lung damage caused by cigarette smoke, Grama was willing to be around smokers, but not drinkers.

    Grama was highly intelligent, but there was no talking to her about the alcohol v. smoking thing.

    Our experiences of childhood and youth are the most powerful of our lives. That is a fact.

    (Which reminds me, as soon as we get that 🤬🤬🤬 impeached, I’m heading for the nearest child immigrant prison to get those babies out of those cages!)

  12. Donald Pay 2019-09-25

    I’m sorry that she had this experience, if she did because she’s known to considerably embellish her personal stories (death tax). Even she has gone against her character and told the truth on this, a leader in government can’t use family history of substance abuse in her family as an excuse not to address this issue in a rational manner.

    Probably 50 percent of families are going to have a close relative or three who have a substance abuse problem. Hey, Kristi, you ain’t special in this. With all due respect for her loss, assuming it’s true, many families could tell similar stories. I have contempt for politicians, like Noem who whine about their personal experiences with trying to get someone sober, yet denying poor druggies health care and a chance at kicking their habit because they won’t expand Medicaid. Sorry, Noem, I don’t buy your fake pain or your so-called concern over this issue.

    Drugs don’t kill people. People who take drugs kill themselves. It’s a mental health issue in many instances. In this regard, drugs are far less lethal than a gunshot, so in a risk benefit analysis, it might make some sense to confiscate the guns while handing out a bunch of pot in exchange. But, of course, Noem’s minders in the gun industry wouldn’t go for that. I bet, though, that if the gun industry gets into hemp farming, Noem will cash the check and start planting hemp.

  13. leslie 2019-09-26

    and yet SD criminalizes addicts, ill people with the substance in their system because craving is impossible to evade and is the very definition of addiction, with felony ingestion.

    abuse destroys the addict (alcoholics on average twist and turn for 25 years before finally attaining sobriety) and then young dumb prosecutors add on the felony. cruel. just listen to law enforcement justify the felony. last week. sdpb.

    it takes leadership to correct the skewed justice system thinking. kristi does not have it, glaringly so.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-09-28

    Yeah, but Porter, on this issue, she’s taking a hit from her own caucus. Resisting hemp isn’t helping her image or her reëlection chances. It’s giving an easy hook for canvassers to use to draw independents who otherwise wouldn’t care to vote her out.

  15. Robert McTaggart 2019-09-28

    Sorry Cory….resisting hemp is simply not helping the governor gather votes from the extreme left in the state….which she was not going to win over any way.

    But if hemp were more profitable than other crops, if it could do better in more extreme weather conditions, and marijuana had nothing to do with it at all, it would have been approved by now.

    If you want to permit farmers the ability to lose money on a crop, then take marijuana off the table. However…there is no interest from proponents to implement any measures that would do exactly that. That would be admitting that there is something wrong with using marijuana, and that ain’t gonna happen.

    Ironically, the governor wants strong governmental regulation to protect the public’s health, and proponents want laissez-faire markets and no regulation with regard to marijuana.


  16. Porter Lansing 2019-09-28

    I understand your thinking, Cory. You’re right.

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